Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Using "OffroadingHome" KML Files

I have been asked several times how to actually use the files available free on this blog. Using them in Google Earth is easy - just click on the link and select "open"! Nothing to it.

However, until now I haven't been able to give a specific answer about how to use them inside your own GPS unit. Mostly because every manufacturer has their own proprietary file formats and instruction manuals. And also because I knew of no adequate (read reliable and free) way to convert my .kmz files to your units file types.

Today, I became aware of: "GPS Trackmaker Free." It is NOT a very "flexible" program, nor is it always "intuitive," (to a US American) nor does it support EVERY GPS unit; HOWEVER, it isn't terribly difficult to learn, it DOES read .kml (Google Earth) files, it does support a lot of brands and, most importantly, it does support the open source standard .gpx files.

All of this makes it a very useful, FREE, program which will PROBABLY do the trick, IF you have just a little bit of computer savvy. So, Charlie, here it is - finally!

Here are the steps that I have used several times now to download a track file from this site, convert it into my Lowrance GPS file type (.usr) and then read it with the Lowrance mapping software. It should also work with other brands such as Garmin and Magellan (some), and does provide an apparently unique interface between .gpx, .txt, and .kml file types which can then be used in other "converters."

The procedure is a bit circuitous and uses both the Google Earth and GPS Trackmaker programs. "Earth" to change the file from compressed to un-compressed (.kmz to .kml) and "trackmaker" to change it from .kml into a, hopefully, useable type for your GPS unit (ie. .kml to .usr).
  1. Download and install Google Earth (4.3 version) and learn how to "OPEN", and "SAVE AS" a track file into the .KML format. The 4.3 version doesn't have the bugs that the new 5.0 version has.

  2. Download and install GPS Trackmaker Free and familiarize how to "OPEN" .kml files and "SAVE AS" the file type of your GPS unit (your literature should tell you what it is).

  3. Create a new working folder somewhere that you can find easily, like your desk top.

  4. Open the "OffroadingHome" blog and find the trail you want to convert. Then click on the file link and choose "OPEN" when requested.

  5. The file will open Google Earth and will be listed in the "temporary places" folder (above). Cursor over the file name such as "16th Day.kml," RIGHT-click the link and choose "SAVE AS."

  6. The "save file" dialog box will open and will need some changes.
    First, the "save as type" must be changed from .kmZ to .kmL;
    Second, the "file name" will have a .kml ending (16th Day.kml) which must be taken OFF (as shown);
    and Third single-click on the conversion folder you have set up (in order to highlight it as the place for it to go) then click "Open" followed by "Save."

  7. Google Earth will have now saved the compressed .kmz file from my site to an un-compressed .kml file in the folder on your computer. Now you can close Google Earth and open GPS TrackMaker.

  8. From the menu at the top select "File > Open File." Then from the "Open File" dialog box, navigate to your conversion folder, select your file and press "Open." The file will now be inside TrackMaker and ready to convert. In this example you can see the track and two waypoints.

  9. Now, go back up to the top and select "File > Save As" to open the standard dialog box. You MUST change the "Save as Type" box to the file type that YOUR GPS expects, in my case the Lowrance ".usr" type. Also navigate to the conversion folder and set the file name the way you want it.

  10. Press "Open" then "Save" and my file has been converted into your GPSs type.

  11. Now, follow the directions that came with your GPS unit to move the file you just created back into your GPS unit. You should also be able to open the file with any mapping software that came with your unit.

Some people without brains do an AWFUL lot of talking!”
L. Frank Baum
The Wizard of Oz

The file type ".gpx" is known as the standard open source protocol for geo-coding. Many other programs (including Google Earth), and some GPS units will accept a file in this format.

The whole process of doing this is sort of like an enema - "it feels sooo good when it's over." But it does work and the next time you go riding you will have the track to follow and waypoints to look for. I would appreciate comments from anyone who uses this for their units - or anyone who had a better way.


Rozza Jullie said...

Hello. If you ever need to convert kml files to gpx formal or the other way around, I recommend to try It's a free conversion tool that help users get tracks, way points or routes. Thought it worth mentioning, thanks!

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